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The Great American Work-Around

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I recently received a comment to a post from David Silverman on Facebook, which allows comments.  His comment and my reply can be seen below.

“hmmm. Biden family baggage? Sure. I’m remembering Carter’s brother trying to influence peddle in Libya and the long string of Bush family payola, notably Silverado S&L, which I think still ranks as the number three or four top swindles in US history ( But who’s counting). Michael Caporale? You’re someone I trust on that story. Any thoughts? If Biden’s in the hotseat, then the graft of Trump & family are burning the neighborhood down. More interesting your comment on DNC and the possibilities of “management reform.” I’ve danced with this one with several parties over the years, notably the Dems, on platform and delegate accountability, institutional capture, etc. Within and acknowledging the many limits of bourgeois parties, what’s your fav reform strategy?

David, sorry, but my thoughts on the Bush family and the S&L debacle are not much different than my thoughts on Hillary getting $650,000 for a speech to Wall Street bankers that encouraged the subsequent fraudulent selling of bundled bad mortgage securities resulting in Chase settling the federal lawsuit to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.  Once you take their money, by hook or by crook, you’re bought and paid for.  Trump et family are just the latest bloated progeny of an electorate addicted to a diet of “fast food” policies.  This nation is far overdue for “management reform.”  The question is, “can the Dems see it clearly enough to avoid the inevitable train wreck, and how can they (or anyone for that matter) sell it to an audience that feeds on instant gratification without self- destructing their party in the process?”

We live in a society that has mastered the art of the “work-around.”  I remember when Carter instituted policy that put financial pressure on states to lower their speed limits to 55mph from 70mph, 75mph and in the case of states like free-wheeling Nevada and freedom-loving Montana, even more.  Americans, ever resourceful, retaliated with Fuzz-busters, CB radios, laser-detectors and radar-jammers.  Car stereos up and down the interstates resounded with the validating anthem of Sammy Hagar’s musical diatribe “I Can’t Drive Fifty-Five” while timid nursing-home candidates and those who could not otherwise afford the price of the new tech-rebellion or the cost of a speeding ticket and the subsequent rise in their automobile insurance, dutifully followed the insufferable speed limit, adding three and a half hours to a 700 mile holiday vacation trip, and instituted yet another work-around, hopped up on prescription diet pills (AKA speed) to avoid falling asleep at the wheel and killing young junior, his sister and the family pet, while navigator Mom snoozed comfortably during the final four hours, this being just a little too soon for women to have taken their full and rightful place in the “family values” society.

I am flattered that you have asked for my comments, but I’m not sure I have any realistic answers, so just regard this as an attempt to start the conversation, but it’s worth a preliminary try.

First, we have to recognize that money is the great political un-equalizer. Wall Street, America’s corporations and bankers, and their CEO’s, all the millionaires and billionaires, donate to political parties and candidates for the express purpose of buying influence indirectly, implicitly threatening the withdrawal of future support should policy not swing their way.  In order to insure the efficacy of this tactic, it is customary practice to hedge bets by donating to both of the opposing sides in an election, leaving non-conforming candidates like Bernie Sanders to struggle with “five-and-dime” pocket change donations with no implied strings attached, while betraying their amoral motives. Without doubt, this has to be the first whistle-stop on the reformation train.

My solution would be to change campaign finance laws such that  all donations, large and small go into an electoral pool and the proceeds would be divided equally between the two major parties. From there, each party would be responsible for the disposition of the funds, advertising buys and such, and distribution to every party candidate for national office, allowing them to apply emphasis by favoring some and denying others, thus insuring a more uniform party-platform and weeding out repugnant miscreants and other aberrations like Donald Trump.

Now I recognize that this is also very problematic, as it encourages group thought and limits evolution from emerging social movements and trends in the electorate championed by a brave few, such as “The Squad,” or other  “Socialistic heretics” like Elizabeth Warren.  Each party would have to submit a plan for how to reconcile this issue to qualify for their share of the funding. Funding cannot be used to squash legitimate dissent and fresh ideas, but could and should be used to limit exposure to candidates advocating racist, anti-Semetic and misogynistic policies.

Next, and here’s the big one—we have to change the way lobbying is done.  My solution is going to be considered radical, but it stems from the realization that we have an important body unrepresented in congress, thus infecting all 50 states in the process. It is without its own specific representation.  It is the corporate state. 

My solution would be to grant it “honorary statehood,” entitling it to two senators and two representatives.  Corporate lobbyists would be limited to only lobbying their representatives, insuring that they have a voice and a vote in each of the houses.  The various corporate congressmen would be chosen in a separate election by qualifying corporations.  All other lobbyists would have to qualify for a legitimate social or policy cause to advocate and would be allowed to lobby all senators and representatives. The specific corporate Senators and Representatives would therefore be the ones to carry the corporate message to the other congressional members and invite debate and discussion without overwhelming influence peddling.

Next is term limits.  It’s a complicated issue and has to be done.  We all know the pros and cons.  It takes a while for a new congressperson to learn the system, and once they have mastered it, their value to their constituents increases. Nevertheless, fresh blood and new ideas must be encouraged.  Twenty or thirty years should be plenty, and then off into retirement like anybody else.

The process of getting on a committee and rising to the position of the chair is currently based on a congressman’s ability to fundraise. So here’s another advantage to the “electoral pool of funds” idea to be realized.  There would be no need for them to devote inordinate amounts of time to fundraising rather than doing the nation’s business full-time creating legislation.

Next, the Supreme Court.  I don’t advocate stuffing the court, but I do advocate balance.  To the degree that balance must be restored, I would support adding a second Supreme Court of nine candidates.  With the potential caseload, considering all the cases that are never heard, justice is not well served with just one court.  This new court would have term limits of thirty years and would have four judges picked by each party and the ninth judge, the swing vote,  approved by both.  Each court would have the option to take cases from the available applicants made on a rotational basis.

The whole lifetime appointment thing is troubling.  It makes the institution, as it is, perpetual and thus unable to evolve with societal needs. My solution to insert a step into the application process that could withhold cases, eventually reducing them to zero, thus grinding the activity of the current court to a halt.  The unemployed judges could run for one of the seats in the new Supreme Court and ultimately as this court faded out, the new “second court could be established.”  Nevertheless, there should always be at least two courts.

As far as the President is concerned, clearly it is time to abolish the electoral college.  It would normally take a constitutional amendment, but in that long held tradition of American work-arounds, there is currently a creative solution. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, whereby the signatory states to the agreement agree to award all their electoral college votes to the winner on the nation popular vote.  Once there are at least 270 signatory states’ electoral votes in the compact the popular vote would determine the election, leaving the non-signed states to sit and wonder “what just happened?”

Lastly, gerrymandering needs to be eliminated and new rules for the drawing of congressional districts need to be determined.  Unfortunately, this is a state issue, but there surely must be some mechanism at the federal level that can determine what the states can do in an election for a federal position.

Surely there are a great many more problems to be addressed, but if we could accomplish this much, I think we might return to a more stable democracy.

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As the Golden Globes lose their luster, can we create a better version of Hollywood?

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Something interesting is happening in Hollywood. People are walking away from the Golden Globe Awards.

And for good reason.

Anyone who has ever worked in the filthy abyss of Hollywood, New York, or any major entertainment city will know first hand how these systems work. Sycophants, parasites and moguls and talent agents willing to step all over each other just for the sake of another prize. Some will even kill for a shot at the brass ring.  And industry divided cannot succeed.

The only good thing I found in the Golden Globes was watching Ricky Gervais lampoon the stars and their handlers from the stage. Bravo to Gervais, it doesn’t make a difference what you think of him, afterall, he had something that most of Hollywood doesn’t have. Balls. Guts. And a way of delivering amusing reality dosed insults to their face only to find he’s been re-instated as the show host for the next years showing.

 

The annual Golden Globes ceremony has been unable to find a broadcasting partner or any celebrities willing to present or collect its awards after a Hollywood boycott over its diversity and ethics scandal, resulting in a pared-down event with the emphasis on philanthropy.

According to Variety, the Globes’ talent bookers have failed to persuade any big Hollywood figures to attend the 2022 edition of the awards ceremony, a hitherto glittering annual event that traditionally kicked off the lucrative awards season. In March 2021 more than 100 public relations firms announced they would withdraw cooperation with the Globes, a series of high-profile Hollywood figures, including Tom Cruise and Scarlett Johansson, made stinging public criticisms, and TV network NBC cancelled its broadcast of the 2022 edition. (-The Guardian)

 
eguardian.com/film/2022/jan/09/golden-globes-lose-their-shine-as-a-listers-shun-unethical-ceremony

But this years showing not only lacked the luster of Hollywood today, but doesn’t even have a Network or Livestream to cover it.  I guess we’ll have to rely on celeb Twitter Feeds.

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Arts

How The Pentagon and CIA Have Shaped Thousands of Hollywood Movies into Super Effective Propaganda

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By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, January 5, 2022

Propaganda is most impactful when people don’t think it’s propaganda, and most decisive when it’s censorship you never knew happened.

 

When we imagine that the U.S. military only occasionally and slightly influences U.S. movies, we are extremely badly deceived. The actual impact is on thousands of movies made, and thousands of others never made. And television shows of every variety.

The military guests and celebrations of the U.S. military on game shows and cooking shows are no more spontaneous or civilian in origin than the ceremonies glorifying members of the U.S. military at professional sports games — ceremonies that have been paid for and choreographed by U.S. tax dollars and the U.S. military. The “entertainment” content carefully shaped by the “entertainment” offices of the Pentagon and the CIA doesn’t just insidiously prepare people to react differently to news about war and peace in the world. To a huge extent it substitutes a different reality for people who learn very little actual news about the world at all.

The U.S. military knows that few people watch boring and non-credible news programs, much less read boring and non-credible newspapers, but that great masses will eagerly watch long movies and TV shows without too much worrying about whether anything makes sense. We know that the Pentagon knows this, and what military officials scheme and plot as a result of knowing this, because of the work of relentless researchers making use of the Freedom of Information Act. These researchers have obtained many thousands of pages of memos, notes, and script re-writes. I don’t know whether they’ve put all of these documents online — I certainly hope they do and that they make the link widely available. I wish such a link were in giant font at the end of a fantastic new film. The film is called Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood. The Director, Editor, and Narrator is Roger Stahl. The Co-Producers are Matthew Alford, Tom Secker, Sebastian Kaempf. They’ve provided an important public service.

In the film we see copies of and hear quotations from and analysis of much of what has been uncovered, and learn that thousands of pages exist that nobody has yet seen because the military has refused to produce them. Film producers sign contracts with the U.S. military or CIA. They agree to “weave in key talking points.” While unknown quantities of this sort of thing remain unknown, we do know that nearly 3,000 films and many thousands of TV episodes have been given the Pentagon treatment, and many others have been handled by the CIA. In many film productions, the military effectively becomes a co-producer with veto power, in exchange for allowing the use of military bases, weapons, experts, and troops. The alternative is the denial of those things.

But the military is not as passive as this might suggest. It actively pitches new story ideas to movie and TV producers. It seeks out new ideas and new collaborators who might bring them to a theater or laptop near you. Act of Valor actually began life as a recruitment advertisement.

Of course, many movies are made without military assistance. Many of the best never wanted it. Many that wanted it and were denied, managed to get made anyway, sometimes at much greater expense without the U.S. tax dollars paying for the props. But a huge number of movies are made with the military. Sometimes the initial movie in a series is made with the military, and the remaining episodes voluntarily follow the military’s line. Practices are normalized. The military sees huge value in this work, including for recruitment purposes.

The alliance between the military and Hollywood is the main reason that we have lots of big blockbuster movies on certain topics and few if any on others. Studios have written scripts and hired top actors for movies on things like Iran-Contra that have never seen the light of day because of a Pentagon rejection. So, nobody watches Iran-Contra movies for fun the way they might watch a Watergate movie for fun. So, very few people have any notions about Iran-Contra.

But with the reality of what the U.S. military does being so awful, what, you might wonder, are the good topics that do get lots of movies made about them? A lot are fantasy or distortion. Black Hawk Down turned reality (and a book it was “based on”) on its head, as did Clear and Present Danger. Some, like Argo, hunt for small stories within large ones. Scripts explicitly tell audiences that it doesn’t matter who started a war for what, that the only thing that matters is the heroism of troops trying to survive or to rescue a soldier.

Yet, actual U.S. military veterans are often shut out and not consulted They often find movies rejected by the Pentagon as “unrealistic” to be very realistic, and those created with Pentagon collaboration to be highly unrealistic. Of course, a huge number of military-influenced films are made about the U.S. military fighting space aliens and magical creatures — not, clearly, because it’s believable but because it avoids reality. On the other hand, other military-influenced films shape people’s views of targeted nations and dehumanize the humans living in certain places.

Don’t Look Up is not mentioned in Theaters of War, and presumably had no military involvement (who knows?, certainly not the movie-watching public), yet it uses a standard military-culture idea (the need to blow up something coming from outerspace, which in reality the U.S. government would simply love to do and you could hardly stop them) as an analogy for the need to stop destroying the planet’s climate (which you cannot easily get the U.S. government to remotely consider) and not one reviewer notices that the film is an equally good or bad analogy for the need to stop building nuclear weapons — because U.S. culture has had that need effectively excised.

The military has written policies on what it approves and disapproves. It disapproves depictions of failures and crimes, which eliminates much of reality. It rejects films about veteran suicide, racism in the military, sexual harassment and assault in the military. But it pretends to refuse to collaborate on films because they’re not “realistic.”

Yet, if you watch enough of what is produced with military involvement you’ll imagine that using and surviving nuclear war is perfectly plausible. This goes back to the original Pentagon-Hollywood invention of myths about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and runs right up through military influence on The Day After, not to mention the transformation — paid for by people who throw a fit if their tax dollars help prevent someone freezing on the street — of Godzilla from a nuclear warning to the reverse. In the original script for the first Iron Man movie, the hero went up against the evil weapons dealers. The U.S. military rewrote it so that he was a heroic weapons dealer who explicitly argued for more military funding. Sequels stuck with that theme. The U.S. military advertised its weapons of choice in Hulk, Superman, Fast and Furious, and Transformers, the U.S. public effectively paying to push itself to support paying thousands of times more — for weapons it would otherwise have no interest in.

“Documentaries” on the Discovery, History, and National Geographic channels are military-made commercials for weapons. “Inside Combat Rescue” on National Geographic is recruitment propaganda. Captain Marvel exists to sell the Air Force to women. Actress Jennifer Garner has made recruitment ads to accompany movies she’s made that are themselves more effective recruitment ads. A movie called The Recruit was largely written by the head of the CIA’s entertainment office. Shows like NCIS push out the military’s line. But so do shows you wouldn’t expect: “reality” TV shows, game shows, talk shows (with endless reunifications of family members), cooking shows, competition shows, etc.

I’ve written before about how Eye in the Sky was openly and proudly both completely unrealistic nonsense and influenced by the U.S. military to shape people’s ideas about drone murders. A lot of people have some small idea of what goes on. But Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood helps us to grasp the scale of it. And once we’ve done that, we may gain some possible insights into why polling finds much of the world fearing the U.S. military as a threat to peace, but much of the U.S. public believing that U.S. wars benefit people who are grateful for them. We may begin to form some guesses as to how it is that people in the United States tolerate and even glorify endless mass-killing and destruction, support threatening to use or even using nuclear weapons, and suppose the U.S. to have major enemies out there threatening its “freedoms.” Viewers of Theaters of War may not all immediately react with “Holy shit! The world must think we’re lunatics!” But a few may ask themselves whether it’s possible that wars don’t look like they do in movies — and that would be a great start.

Theaters of War ends with a recommendation, that movies be required to disclose at the start any military or CIA collaboration. The film also notes that the United States has laws against propagandizing the U.S. public, which might make such a disclosure a confession of a crime. I would add that since 1976, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has required that “Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.”

To learn more about this film, view it, or host a screening of it, go here.

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Editorials

The Grinch That Stole Christmas

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Back in the mid 70’s as my wife and I were starting our photography business Wally Miller, a successful local businessman, invited us to his office to offer help in the form of business advice. He asked only that we bring a financial statement and of course we complied.  The business startup process was new to us and after two years we were still losing money, and there it was in plain sight on the financial statement.  Wally welcomed us warmly and after a few minutes of careful study of our financials offered this observation, “You have no bad debts.”

Naturally I took this as a compliment.  I was proud that we had no bad debts, but that is not what Wally meant.  He elaborated, “If you have no bad debts that means that your credit is too tight and that translates into lost business.” His meaning was clear.  To be successful, really successful, you have to accept reasonable losses.  It’s the very nature of business.  If you want 100% certainty there can be no risk and without risk there can be no profits.

There’s a lesson in this thinking for Joe “McFuqwad” Manchin, the tight-ass, penny-pinching Grinch ruining Christmas for every American under the cover of “fiscal responsibility.”  His staffers gave us a look into his rationale, revealing two of the real reasons behind Joe’s decision to be the big NO.

Apparently Manchin believes that giving money to the poor in the form of a child tax credit is unwise because in his view, many will spend the extra dollars on drugs.  Likewise he is opposed to paid leave, stating that people will just call in sick and then go off deer hunting.

Now let’s all agree that in a free society, there are good and bad actors.  No law can legislate what is in the hearts of men.  No law can dictate integrity or honor.  If that were the case, there would be no GOP, no Jim Jordan, no Ted Cruz, no Matt Gaetz, No Marjorie Taylor Green, no Lauren Boebert. You get my drift, but I digress.

Once you agree to recognize that the actions of individuals are beyond your control, you must the adjust your decisions and subsequent actions to affect the greatest good for the majority.  Charity benefits the worthy and unworthy alike, without discrimination.  To withhold benefits from the worthy because there will always be unworthy recipients is to succumb to the devil’s play, a game of reduction that punishes all for the few.

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